Why the Adoption of Conversational AI is Booming Through COVID-19

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic would reach its initial peak, transforming from a localized wave into a worldwide tsunami.

In five chaotic weeks, the Booking, Entertainment, Airlines, Cruises, and Hotel markets, commonly known by their acronym BEACH markets (or stocks), saw more than $332 billion in value evaporate.

Source: Visual Capitalist

$332 billion.

More than the combined GDP of Ukraine and Kuwait, cut down in less than a month.

It’s hard to overstate the havoc wreaked by the pandemic on the world economy, sending stock markets into tailspins and leaving millions of people unemployed.

Companies that seemed untouchable filed for bankruptcies and corporate giants such as Delta Airlines witnessed their stock prices plummet by more than 50%.

But such history-altering events tend to instigate a pendulum effect. Crises, by their very nature, create vacuums unique to the new circumstances they produce. Voids that fill quickly with opportunity.

According to a July 2020 report by Markets and Markets, as whole sectors are expected to shrink, and an imminent deep recession is on the horizon, the global conversational AI market size is expected to grow from $4.8 billion in 2020 to $13.9 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.9%.

Incredibly, the conversational AI market, which was already in full swing before the COVID-19 crisis, has seen itself bolstered due to otherwise unforeseeable conditions brought upon by the international community’s response to the virus.

This disparity extends into the tech ecosystem as well. According to the report, “the global ICT spending is estimated to decline by 4%–5% by the end of 2020. Moreover, the hardware business is predicted to have the most impact on the IT industry. Due to the slowdown of hardware supply and reduced manufacturing capacity, the IT infrastructure growth has slowed down. Businesses providing solutions and services are also expected to slow down for a short time. However, the adoption of collaborative applications, analytics, security solutions, and AI is set to increase in the remaining part of the year.

Source: Markets and Markets

Only six months ago, it would have been impossible to imagine a reality in which more than half the planet’s population is ordered to remain home under strict social distancing measures. Confined to their residences, billions of people had to adapt quickly and, in essence, move their lives into the digital sphere. Working from home — up until recently considered a luxury and strong employee incentive — became the new norm. Meetings, conferences, and even family gatherings migrated to Zoom, giving birth to a sub-culture of habits and rituals.

[Read about our team’s experiences traversing the “Zoom Universe”]

At a moment’s notice, people became completely reliant on online shopping and deliveries.

Digital consumerism spiked to new heights with Forbes reporting U.S. retailers’ online year-over-year (YoY) revenue growth up 68% as of mid-April, surpassing an earlier peak of 49% in early January. CC Insights revealed a 129% year-over-year growth in U.S. & Canadian e-commerce orders as of April 21 and an impressive 146% growth in all online retail orders. Online conversion rates increased 8.8% in February, reflecting a level of shopping urgency typically seen during Cyber Mondays, according to QuantumMetric.

Source: QuantumMetric

When examining the industries which are surviving or even flourishing during this time of great uncertainty, one common theme continues to emerge — digital customer engagement powered by conversational AI.

Let’s take a closer look at three industries that have adopted conversational AI to remain stable or even skyrocket during COVID-19.

Conversational AI Adoption in Healthcare IT

A Markets and Markets report published in May 2020 reflects extraordinary growth for the Healthcare IT market propelled by government funding and the relaxing of regulations surrounding telemedicine and other digital patient access and care solutions. According to the report, the global healthcare IT market size is projected to reach USD 270.3 billion by 2021 from USD 227.5 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 23.6%

Source: Markets and Markets

Overwhelmed by an increasing volume of calls coming into doctors’ offices, increased demand for digital services online, as well as worried patients scared to visit emergency rooms and hospitals, many healthcare providers turned to conversational AI and telehealth to alleviate the pressure on first-touch care. In a recent interview with Healthcare IT News, Jeff Short, VP and Chief of Staff at New York’s Montefiore Health System described the impressive results Montefiore experienced upon deploying Hyro’s COVID-19 conversational AI virtual assistant:

“During the first week of deployment, we were already witnessing hundreds of daily conversations with the COVID-19 screening tool and chat solution. Additionally, we have been able to direct chatbot users to other key areas on the website, including our FAQ document and our patient portal application.”

Making the case for telehealth in our latest virtual event, Montefiore’s AVP, Patient Access, Adrin Mammen described how the medical system went from zero telehealth visits in January 2020 to over 250,000 since rolling out their platform in March. Explaining how this bewildering feat was achieved, Mammen said:

“We talked about the red tape earlier, and about how much red tape there is on an organization. Some of that is self-imposed. It is one of my learnings through this. It really is us. And so, when we had the shared goal of overcoming or fighting COVID-19 somehow much of that red tape did go away”

Recognizing those same needs Hyro was able to fulfill for Montefiore, a host of tech leaders and healthcare organizations released their own conversational AI platforms. To support this rapid deployment of COVID-19 bots, Microsoft has made a set of response templates, including risk assessment, triage, and education, for customers to use and customize.

[Watch the full recording of our live fireside chat with Adrin Mammen alongside Weill Cornell Medicine CIO Curtis Cole and Mount San Rafael Hospital CIO, Michael Archuleta on how COVID-19 catalyzed digital transformation in their organizations]

Conversational AI Adoption in Retail

Long before the COVID-19 outbreak, it was forecasted that by 2023, conversational AI in retail (conversational commerce) would generate $112 billion in sales and reward the industry with a $439 billion cut in costs a year.

The current situation is only driving the adoption of conversational AI in retail further.

In the complete absence of brick and mortar shops, conversational AI agents assumed the role of in-store sales associates online. A newly published survey conducted by Mckinsey and Company on Consumer Behavior During the Coronavirus Crisis concludes that this trend is to become the new standard even after the pandemic abates. The survey found that ‘more consumers intend to continue to shop online even as the crisis subsides, with a portion of consumers shifting almost entirely to the online channel.’

Source: McKinsey and Company

Reflecting consumers’ sentiments, a recent vote of confidence in conversational AI as a solution to the risks of infection posed by brick and mortar shopping came in the form of speech technology company Nuance partnering with Alberton’s Grocery Stores to provide Voice Assistant and Live Chat capabilities to their customers’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conversational AI Adoption in Real Estate

The real estate industry, which initially seemed to be at risk of failing, is, in actuality, predicted to become even more robust due to record-low interest rates, which are enticing to home buyers and existing homeowners in refinancing to lower payments. While existing homes sales fell in May, the National Association of Realtors expects a strong rebound in the coming months. Additionally, as people spend more time in their homes, they may become more aware of their current space’s inefficiencies and shortcomings.

Realtors, eager to meet growing demand yet limited by social distancing, had to think creatively of new ways to attract and engage customers. Offering 3D home tours, aerial footage, self-guided tours, and virtual neighborhood tours, realtors have been able to give clients a comprehensive understanding of the property from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Converting leads into residents, Conversational AI is being harnessed to digitally orchestrate the entire prospecting, sales, and after-sales process. Zillow’s 2019 Consumer Housing Trends Report found that 71% of renters who inquire about a listing expect to hear back from the landlord or property manager within 24 hours. However, only 51 percent of renters say they receive the timely responses they expect. Ironically, it would seem that the push towards conversational AI in real estate triggered by COVID-19 is set to streamline the industry as a whole. From generating leads (buyers and sellers) to answering prospects’ FAQs and property searches and addressing maintenance requests by existing residences, conversational AI is poised to become a staple of real estate purchase and sale long after COVID-19 dies down.

No matter the industry, here at Hyro, we’re accelerating the adoption of conversational AI, enabling enterprises to engage with their customers across all digital touchpoints through COVID-19 and beyond. Powered by cutting-edge natural language capabilities, Hyro easily understands and navigates customers using both voice and text, no matter their mission. We provide frictionless deployment and maintenance processes by leveraging existing content without any integrations, playbooks, or training data, removing the costly and time-consuming obstacles typically faced when creating conversational solutions.

Drop me a line at michael@hyro.ai or request a demo and visit our website to learn more.

Michael Blumental

COO at Hyro